As he leaves office, Brad Hart looks for new ways to serve Cedar Rapids

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart is pictured in the City Council Chamber at Cedar Rapids Town Hall on December 8. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart is pictured in the City Council Chamber at Cedar Rapids Town Hall on December 8. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart chats with supporters during his Election Watch Night on November 2 at Cedar River Landing in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids outgoing mayor Brad Hart is leading a city council meeting on Dec. 7 in the Cedar Rapids town hall council chamber. Hart will be stepping down after serving a term. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

Outgoing Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart (right) chats with Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman after a Dec. 7 city council meeting at Cedar Rapids Town Hall. (Jim Slosiarek / The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Brad Hart was a business attorney at local firm Bradley & Riley and a community volunteer motivated to make an impact on people’s lives when someone suggested he run for mayor of Cedar Rapids.

“That way you can serve the whole city,” not just the groups of people who are helped by United Way of Eastern Iowa, Horizons or the Chamber of Commerce, Hart recalls.

Until then, he hadn’t thought about running for office, but the idea stuck with him. In 2017, he successfully rose to the top of a group of eight candidates for mayor, succeeding Ron Corbett.

Hart’s four-year tenure has been filled with unprecedented challenges for the city, as 2020 brought the COVID-19 pandemic and a faltering economy, devastation from derecho hurricane-force winds and civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.

Now, Hart is preparing to come back to life outside the public eye after losing his reelection bid in November. Women Lead Change CEO Tiffany O’Donnell will take her place at Town Hall effective January 1.

Few can become mayor of Iowa’s second largest city, Hart said, and he views his four years of service as a “privilege.”

Progress in unprecedented times

Although Hart is disappointed that he will not return to Town Hall as mayor in 2022, he takes this time to reflect on the progress the city has made over the past four years.

Among the list of accomplishments, Hart listed: more streets repaired through Paving for Progress, increased funds for the city’s $ 750 million permanent flood control system, creation of the ReLeaf Urban Forestry Plan, the establishment of the Rollin ‘Recmobile to bring recreation to youth, implementation of the Gateways for Growth initiative to support immigrants, increased participation in municipal councils and commissions, work on major development projects and continued creation of ‘jobs.

But Hart also knows that black spots were looming over his tenure and were likely the voters’ top priority when they voted this year and decided it was time for a change of leadership.

He personally took some heat for calls made amid these ‘unprecedented’ times, including the decision to impose masks in public spaces to curb the spread of COVID-19, giving local businesses cover to require masks on their own properties. Some criticized Hart for not making the decision sooner, while Hart said others had reached out to condemn the order and felt it was an unnecessary government intrusion in their life.

Hart also said he would have treated an interview with KCRG-TV differently after the August 10, 2020 derecho, when his comments about not needing the National Guard to clean up tree debris left some residents feeling as if the city does not recognize their needs or have a plan to respond sufficiently to the disaster.

“I should have said that we need (the on-call) for whatever they can provide,” Hart said, but he noted that now the city is learning from derecho to improve situational preparedness. emergency, improve communication, planning and training of staff and residents. look alike.

As he played a role in driving the city through the obstacles of 2020, Hart said he felt even more pride in Cedar Rapids than he did as a private citizen. And he had a front row seat for it all.

“There was so much going on all over town, in the public and private sectors, and people came together, and I saw more details about it as mayor than I would as a ordinary citizen, ”Hart said.

“Commitment to service”

City manager Jeff Pomeranz, who reports directly to the mayor and eight other members of Cedar Rapids city council, said Hart was a hard-working mayor and the two had a good relationship.

“Brad is always prepared and willing and able to represent the city when called upon,” Pomeranz said. “… He has an absolute commitment to serving Cedar Rapids, and that’s something I really appreciated.

Pomeranz said Hart had always made himself available to city staff, was in communication with his fellow council members, and was keen to listen and hear citizens’ concerns. And he did so in the midst of four years of challenges that Pomeranz said required “significant leadership, and Brad stepped up to meet those challenges.”

“His commitment to service was also visible every day when Brad’s car was parked at Town Hall, many times from early in the morning until late at night,” Pomeranz said. “Not only did he care, but he worked hard to represent our city. “

Hart said he views leadership as the most important quality to exhibit for a mayor, and that includes “being able to listen but also being able to make a decision, so people trust (and) you know that you are doing it for the right reason.

Council member Dale Todd, the pro tem mayor, thanked Hart for his four years of service at the town’s recent demolition ceremony to celebrate the start of work on the $ 49 million mixed-use project on what the Banjo Block is called at 515 Fourth Ave. SE.

“Under your leadership, I’ve had the good fortune to say ‘this is a big deal’ a number of times over the past four years with some of the projects,” Todd said. “The mark of a good mayor is in your heritage. Many of us won’t know until four or five years later.

Todd told The Gazette that Hart served “in the toughest and most productive four years this city has ever seen.”

“No one tried to do the right thing and worked harder than Mayor Hart,” Todd said.

Return to privacy

What’s next for Hart? The same question arises.

To begin with, he pledged to help raise funds for the ReLeaf partnership between nonprofit Trees Forever and the city to reforest Cedar Rapids after widespread loss of trees in the derecho.

“I’m going to find another way to serve,” Hart said.

After serving as mayor, Hart said he plans to seek more “hands-on” volunteer opportunities, and he has a particular interest in working on housing issues facing the community.

What Hart has said he will miss the most is working with the town team to find solutions to the challenges of Cedar Rapids, but all of this work has shaped how he will approach his own volunteer work. in the future.

“I will probably want to connect more with those served by the cause in the future,” Hart said.

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